You know things are getting out of hand when the marketers and spin doctors and capitalists twist a concept to the point that it barely resembles what it was originally. Take bushcraft (woods craft) for example. Somewhere along the line it became less about using intrinsic skills acquired through living with the land and instead morphed into buying products from knives to sleeping bags. Somehow people got the idea that the acquisition of things instead of the attainment of know-how makes one a better woodsman.
I’ve seen YouTube videos made by well-meaning folks about not disturbing the land when they camp. They call it stealth camping or dispersed camping and the object is to leave no vestige of their sojourn after a day or two hiking and camping. But invariably these same campers are laden with all sorts of backpacking gear, fancy walking sticks, innovative stoves, modern tents and assorted paraphernalia. It’s important to note that the mining, manufacturing, transporting and marketing of all this equipment produces a significantly greater impact on the environment (the land) than any preoccupation with keeping any specific woodland undisturbed. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been practicing a form of stealth camping for decades. My object is to become invisible to not only the animals around me but to anyone who might wander by. If you’ve kept track of this blog you know I abhor noise of any kind and I live in a cabin in the woods. I maintain a minimalist lifestyle predicated on the ideas of self-sufficiency, recycling and leaving as little an environmental footprint as possible. Ultimately, however, it is nature itself that draws me into the woods and I have felt a oneness with the land since childhood. All of this is not to say, given today’s urban society, that we must not purchase things to aid our visits to nature. Besides, the acquisition of skills takes decades and is not really something that one “practices” as if taking a class in history or biology or whatnot. Note that most of you are masters of the environment in which you live. In that sense all of you are survival experts because you have an implicit understanding of how to negotiate and persevere in the world in which you grew up. Bring a Bushman to your world and he has little to no survival skills nor will he be able to learn them quickly if at all. Don’t berate yourself for not having bushcraft skills. Your “bushcraft” is a different sort of expertise living in a world dominated by modern capitalism with all its benefits and accompanying negatives. You find yourself in a survival situation every time you take your vehicle onto an expressway but you think nothing of it. Ask a Bushman or Brazilian rainforest dweller to do the same and he would probably not last long. Even so, we have badly mangled the land or said another way: We have desecrated the earth through a collective gluttony and avarice derived via the economic systems we embrace and the accompanying obsession with hyper-consumption. Nonetheless, when it comes to classic bushcraft (that is to say when it comes to living in harmony with the woods around us and at the same time not depleting resources far away) we should perhaps keep in mind that simplicity and frugality is the key. Bring simple, unprocessed foods that can be cooked on the spot and not freeze-dried packages that are not only processed but like other things the product of mining (for the packages), manufacturing, transportation and marketing. Keep your tools simple and your camping equipment basic. Learn to be frugal and in so doing you will move closer to becoming self-sufficient and gain a deeper understanding of the true meaning of woods craft.